COVID vaccinations and the support we currently need

We had a COVID vaccine outreach clinic this week for rough sleepers and people in emergency accommodation. The clinic was held outside for safety reasons and to ensure social distancing measures. All our sessions are held outside at present. 

Several local authorities in England have decided to prioritise homeless people for vaccination against COVID-19, giving this population priority alongside the over-80s. This includes vaccinations for people sleeping rough, in temporary accommodation, staff in outreach and other homelessness services as well as Social Care staff and Social Care charities such as Newbury Soup Kitchen. 

A wonderful GP came to our Session to offer the vaccine to people who find themselves with no permanent home. He was kind, compassionate and very keen to spend as much time as necessary putting people at ease, answering questions and reassuring anyone with concerns or who were nervous.

People living on the streets, or those who have no permanent address, are some of the most vulnerable people in society and need help and support. When people live rough or in emergency accommodation or hostels, they can also come into contact with a large number of people, there is a big risk they could catch coronavirus or transmit it on to others. That’s why it is important the vaccine is administered to as many people who are vulnerable in this way as possible.

As we opened with the big gazebo set up along the railings by the canal more and more people arrived, the few who had been invited has spread the word as we suspected may happen.

The GP who came to do the vaccine had brought enough luckily to vaccinate everyone who turned up. As long as the person gave written consent, were homeless, living in a local Hostel, Rough Sleeping, Sofa Surfing, in Emergency Accommodation or Vulnerable.

This was the Astra Zeneca vaccine, they come in vials with 11 doses in each, Jim the GP was adamant he was not going to throw any away. Every vaccine was given to someone in need which was wonderful.  The GP will come back to give the boosters and first vaccines for anyone else who requires one in a few weeks according to Government directive. Other locations who support rough sleepers and homeless individuals are lined up to have a visit from the GP locally too.

On the menu this week we had Carrot and Coriander soup, a lovely Turkey Roast, Christmas pudding with Custard. All 42 meals went, 29 clients and an extra 11 meals given out with 2 extra vegetarian meals. In addition, we had another 3 that had soup, Pot Noodles etc as we ran out of hot meals.  There were quite a few people who came just for the vaccine. 

As we thought we would be busy we had extra support from the Rough Sleeper Reduction Team Leader from West Berkshire Council. Meryl works very closely with this team with outreach. It was really helpful to have her on hand, this meant she could meet clients she needed to talk to and meet new people who have found themselves homeless. We knew that having the extra help tonight from the rough sleeper team was a good idea. Over time you build strong relationships and trust with the clients you work with. A couple of people who came down for the vaccine had not been to the Soup kitchen before.  Having someone there they knew helped with the anxiety of attending a busy session. They enjoyed meeting the volunteers, chatting to our outreach and mental Health experienced volunteers and getting a hot nutritious meal. If we can make someone at their lowest ebb feel cared for welcomed and supported, then we have done our job.  

Supermarket donations were very very low this week as well as the Pret and Greggs donations.  Since the Pandemic fresh food donations have been very low. We collect fresh food from Waitrose and Tesco and ambient food from local Co-ops and both Lidl each week. We rely on fresh fruit and vegetables to accompany our home cooked meals and fruit to go in our takeaway bags. We provide fresh food parcels to clients too. A few people like to juice as part of their new healthy lifestyle once settled into a home of their own. 

Our new commercial kitchen is finished, and we are so proud of it. It is registered and is now in full operation so all our volunteer cooks can use it. It is big enough to socially distance and work in bubbles safely. 

Local companies and individuals have been so kind and generous and without them we would not have created this wonderful space. 

We have booked in the diary as far as we are aware at this point a flu vaccine clinic at The Soup Kitchen on February 4th. It is a little later than hoped due to COVID as we had trouble accessing vaccines and a pharmacist to administer them. We are working alongside Public Health and West Berkshire with this initiative and is the fourth year running.

We have updated our Amazon Wishlist which has items that we use every week for the sessions and also with items that support the council and hostel outreach workers who can come to our new unit and help themselves to anything they need for vulnerable people we all work with. People who have been housed still need ongoing support we regularly put items on the list too. Collaboration is key and now we have storage and facilities in one place we can do this more effectively.  Your donations matter and make a difference to people’s lives. 

Our project on The Good Exchange is an easy way to donate on this also you can read up about us a bit more.

Facebook has a donation button which is at the top of this link and you can reach our Just Giving donation page here. 

Cheques can be posted to 

Newbury Soup Kitchen
C/o HAVEN (West Berkshire)
1 Hambridge Lane,
RG14 5TU

Thank you for reading our weekly blog and supporting Newbury Soup Kitchen.

We were so pleased to be able to help organise the COVID vaccination outreach tonight. This is what’s it’s all about. Looking after people and keeping them safe.